Deep in the Act

Translator: Kotoni

Editor: Isalee

First Published on Chaleuria

Note: DITA will be on hiatus for the coming week. Releases will resume on 13 December.

Chapter 24.2

Upon exiting the clinic and turning down two corners, one would reach an upward slope that led to a small plaza. On the west side of the plaza stood a row of bustling, brightly-colored clubs, one of which bore a small metal plaque with the name, Blackpool. Fang Chi guided Gao Zhun through the metal doorway, which was decorated with metallic studs and stickers. As soon as they entered the club, they were greeted by the pulsating music in the air, which charged the atmosphere with a sense of passionate freedom unique to Latin America. All around them, young men and women with tall, slender figures were milling about. Some of them were so attractive that they left lasting impressions on anyone who laid eyes on them.

Holding Gao Zhun by the shoulder, Fang Chi signaled the other man to follow him. Together, they walked down the corridor and turned left around the corner. In the very next moment, their field of vision opened up without warning as they came up to the edge of a standard Latin dance floor. Tables of various sizes were set up along its perimeter, their tabletops decorated with vintage enamel vases and antique drawstring lamps. The guests, tasteful and sophisticated, bantered in softened tones as they enjoyed the dances before them.

“Good evening, Mr. Fang,” a waitstaff in a striped uniform greeted Fang Chi with warmth. “Your usual spot?”

Fang Chi nodded and led Gao Zhun toward an area away from the light. It was clear that he frequented the place. “This is a members-only club?” Gao Zhun asked.

“Only in appearance,” Fang Chi replied, keeping a watchful eye on the floor before Gao Zhun. “In reality, it’s just an ordinary dance club. Have I ever told you that dancing is one of my favorite interests?” They arrived at his preferred spot; half of it was awash with light, while the other half rested in the shadows. Treating Gao Zhun like a perfect lady, Fang Chi pulled out the chair in the shadows for him, eager and gallant. “Unfortunately,” he added, “I can’t dance at all.”

Gao Zhun accepted the gesture and sat down. The chair was very comfortable. There were two roses in the vase on their table – one red, one white – tilting their pretty heads at the two of them. A cha-cha performance was going on right now on the dance floor. Several pairs of dancers twirled and turned to the beat of ‘Corazon De Melao’. Their soles and heels flitted with grace across the polished floor. The gel in their hair and the sequins on their costumes gleamed in the silver light. Swinging their long, shapely legs by the sides of their partners’ bodies, the women flashed their tanned skin in a tantalizing display as they moved to the music.

“I come here to wind down whenever I feel tired,” Fang Chi explained as he passed the menu to Gao Zhun. “No one really cares about the well-being of therapists, so I need to look out for myself. I give myself a treat now and then by feasting my eyes on a ronde chasse or two.” Smiling with a self-deprecating look on his face, he pointed to a dazzling pair of light-footed dancers performing the iconic cha-cha sequence in the center of the floor.

“Linlin is a dancer too…” Almost unintentionally, Gao Zhun brought up her name – as if hoping to sate the dark competitive streak within himself by somehow getting Fang Chi to put her down.

Fang Chi’s face twitched. “Yes, that’s part of the reason.” He seemed somewhat unnatural as he signaled for the waiter to come over. “But that’s all in the past.”

The waiter approached their table with an ordering device in his hands. Beside him was a bright-eyed young man with full lips, clad in a shimmery dance costume. A sheen of sweat covered his neck and chest; it was clear that he had been on the dance floor not too long ago. “Good evening, sir. We’re having a promotion right now. You will be entitled to a fifty percent discount if you follow our official account today,” the youth explained as he held out a business card for the club with a QR code printed on it.

“I’ll pass,” Fang Chi answered with a polite smile. “Thank you for the offer, but I don’t have a WeChat account.”

“I do,” Gao Zhun spoke up from the other side of the table. The young man looked over. From where he was standing, he could only see a vague outline of Gao Zhun’s features through the shadows, and a pair of exquisitely beautiful hands resting on the table. He watched as those hands took out a phone from the pocket of a luxury suit, and opened the WeChat app with a few light taps. “Just following will do?”

Then, Gao Zhun leaned forward. His face emerged from the amorphous boundary of light and shade with the sharpness of a fine blade. Like the first glow of dawn breaking through the clouds at the edge of the blue horizon – like the finest white stone dappled with myriad shifting lights from glistening waters – he was beautiful beyond compare, devastatingly and crushingly so.1 The youth was too captivated to answer him. As a dancer, he was more than used to the company of attractive people. But now, every single one of those gorgeous creatures paled in comparison to the man before him. Their good looks now took on a new cheapness, just like worthless pencil scribbles on rough paper, waiting to be binned with a careless toss.

Fang Chi was displeased – very much so. His fingers tapped against the tabletop. He was unhappy that Gao Zhun left the shadowed area he had designated for him and showed his face without leave. But the young dancer’s trespass into his territory vexed him even more. “Are you done?” he prompted.

They were. The young man took the card back, but remained unwilling to leave. “You’re… together?”

Not comprehending the implication of his question, Gao Zhun replied with an absent ‘yes’. Fang Chi replied with a cold and displeased ‘no’ almost at the same time. Realization hit Gao Zhun as he heard the emphatic stress that Fang Chi placed on his monosyllabic utterance.

In an instant, a look of suggestive speculation came over the young man’s features. Fang Chi immediately regretted his response. “Ah, I mean yes,” he hurried to change his answer, “we’re together.”

But he did not expect Gao Zhun to switch his reply as well. “No, we’re not,” he chimed in at the same moment.

The situation became a little awkward for all three of them. After thanking them, the young man moved on to another table. Fang Chi waited for him to disappear into the distance. Then, with feigned nonchalance, he remarked, “That was a pretty good-looking lad. Nice figure too.”

“That’s pretty much the norm for dancers.” Gao Zhun’s reply was rather perfunctory; he had no interest in the young man at all. Just then, he received a new text message on his phone. He opened it with a swipe: [Your collar looks really tight.]

Gao Zhun frowned. He did not recognize the sender’s number. It probably belonged to the young man from just now; the man must have found his number through his WeChat account. A second message popped up soon after: [I want to loosen it for you.]

He loosened his grip in fright, and his phone clattered onto the table. “What’s wrong?” Fang Chi asked.

“No… nothing…” The fear from his trauma welled up once more within him. His eyes darted around, but he could not find the man stalking him from the dark. His phone vibrated as messages continued popping up, one after the other, showing no signs of stopping. Fang Chi reached for it with one hand, picked it up, and held it out to Gao Zhun. “Unlock this for me.”

Gao Zhun peered up cautiously, as if he were treading on thin ice. Fang Chi did not relent. He waited in silence, his arm outstretched, until Gao Zhun gave in at last.

Once the phone was unlocked, Fang Chi began scrolling through the messages:

[I fell for you at first sight.]
[I’m really big down there, and I’m good in bed. Wanna give it a try?]
[You know what’s on my mind right now? I’m thinking about how to strip you bare, and…]

Without giving away a single hint of his feelings, Fang Chi returned the phone to Gao Zhun. “Let’s go,” he said, standing up and picking up his jacket.

They left the club together, with Fang Chi falling several steps behind Gao Zhun. On their way out, he took off his glasses and slipped them into a trouser pocket. After crossing the road, he guided Gao Zhun to a street lamp opposite the club. “I left my glasses on the table,” he said. “Wait here for me. Can you do that?”

“I’ll go with you…” Gao Zhun clung to Fang Chi’s sleeve, but was caught by surprise when the other man pulled him away without warning. Before his eyes, Fang Chi crossed the road again and headed back to Blackpool, disappearing once more into its doorway.

All alone in the weak light from the street lamp, Gao Zhun was overwhelmed with fear. He was terrified of the dark, and just as terrified of those messages. He kept looking at his watch. Time passed – five minutes, then ten – but Fang Chi still did not return. The more he thought about it, the more he believed that something must have gone wrong. He took out his phone. Just as he got to his inbox, however, the door slammed open from the inside. Fang Chi re-emerged from the club, shaking his arm. His nose and cheekbones were covered in red, while his hand bled from an open wound in the area between his thumb and index finger. The sight was like a blow to Gao Zhun’s head; his blood froze in his veins as he watched Fang Chi take out his glasses from his pocket and put them on. Then, Fang Chi came up to him and threw an arm around his shoulder, asking, “Do you have a first-aid kit at home?”


Footnote:

  1. Devastatingly and crushingly beautiful: In the original text, Tongzi made a reference to a Chinese translation of Haruki Murakami’s A Wild Sheep Chase.
    • In this particular translation, a description of the beauty of the girl’s ear is translated into the Chinese idiom “摧枯拉朽”.
      • The idiom literally means to ‘crumple or destroy something as easily as sweeping up dead leaves or crushing rotten wood’.
    • Considering the differences that may exist between the Chinese and English translations, I have chosen to omit the reference to Murakami (to avoid possible confusion amongst English readers). In its place, I chose to retain the reference to the Chinese idiom, which was the more important detail in the original text.